SKILFUL young horse riders from Ripon Grammar School have reached the finals of a national schools’ equestrian competition to be held at the prestigious Hickstead arena.
Two teams of students from across all the school’s year groups excelled in challenging conditions, despite heavy rain, in the qualifying round of the National School Equestrian Association Championships.
Over two weekends, they beat teams from other northern schools including Ampleforth College, Barnard Castle School and Queen Mary’s School and will face the best teams from all over the country, including Marlborough College and Godolphin School, in the finals at the famous Sussex showground on May 24.
Harrogate-based professional four-star eventer Hazel Towers is now helping to coach Izzy Bean, Izzy Kirby, Imogen and George White in preparation for the highly regarded national competition.
Their challenging qualifier, involving twenty timed show and cross-country jumping elements, took place at the Northallerton Equestrian Centre in extremely testing weather conditions, with one third of the arena under water.
Riders had to be particularly skilful, with the ability to judge rhythm, tempo and pace, as the aim is to complete the course closest to an optimum assigned time, not to be the fastest round.
Second form student Izzy Kirby did particularly well, qualifying for both the 75cm fence-height individual and team events alongside third form pupil Izzy Bean and first former Imogen White.
Izzy Bean also represented RGS at the 85cm team arena event with George, who is in third year, and Imogen White.
Lower sixth form student Eddie Henson, who qualified for the finals individually in 2017 and 2018, was too fast and unfortunately missed out on a place at the finals this year when he came in third in the 95cm and 105cm events.
RGS teacher Fiona Henson, a keen equestrian herself, said that arena competitions were technically very challenging as competitors are penalised for being too fast or too slow.
All the riders did well in particularly poor weather conditions, said Mrs Henson, who describes horse riding as ‘like therapy’
“Despite the horribly wet day, everyone did amazingly well, and all jumped clear. The arena being partly under water was good practice for the water jump at Hickstead.
“There was also extra pressure as we only had three competitors in each team instead of four,” she added, highlighting Izzy Kirby’s 'very impressive’ performance.